Golf is meant to be a relaxing, enjoyable game designed so that anyone can play it. However, a full 18 holes can be a long, tedious stretch for those not fit enough for the game, or if you aren’t up to standards, making golf quite the opposite of relaxing and enjoyable. Minigolf, on the other hand, is a short and sweet game designed for all the family to smash a few balls up ramps, through windmills and into the hole at the end. Does Ultra Minigolf live up to the fun and beat going outdoors, or is this a poor conversion of the game we all love to play when visiting a seaside resort?
Boasting up to four players either online or offline, the game immediately means business. There are no tutorials in this game, so as the Live interface boots up and you are asked to select your character, no clue is given as to what the three different control options mean. ‘Three Clicks’, ‘Hold and Release’ and ‘Analog Putt’ all mean very little, so it’s guess work as to which one will be preferable. ‘Three Clicks’ is the control scheme used in older versions of golf games gone by, where the player presses A to get the swingometer in motion, A to stop the swingometer at the required power, then A once more for the accuracy. It feels dated in this day and age with the likes of Tiger Woods’ games offering much more precision through the use of the analog sticks. Thank the Lord then that ‘Analog Putt’ is on offer, which sees the right analog stick being used to gauge the power. ‘Hold and Release’ simply sees the player holding A until the required power is reached, then all that is required is the release of A and voila, the ball is hit. Setting the direction of your shot is easy; simply aim with a handy little arrow coming out of the ball and line up best you can with either the hole or a wall that will lead to the hole. The other customisation options are pretty good for an Arcade game, with the ability to play as one of four characters, and a choice of a few different clothing options and around ten different types of ball.
Once online you will delighted to see there is no lag at all, even with four players. The game runs as smoothly as four player local multiplayer, which is a great achievement. Once online, there are two courses available. Both are different, and both certainly hold different challenges along the way. During the course of the round with three other friends, you will visit worlds such as Space, Carnival Towns, Cowboy themed areas and a few more. The setting itself makes little difference to the ball’s physics, so smashing the ball into space won’t make the ball float around like you’d expect. That isn’t really a bad thing either, otherwise it would be impossible to get anywhere. Instead play is carried out across planets. One hole in particular in the Space-themed world is where you play on the outer surface of a planet, and it sees the ball going round and round, so effectively the hole is on a slope the whole time. It’s incredibly difficult by blasting the ball, because it will either leave the putting area or go flying past the hole, neither of which are good news to the score.
There are other fun holes waiting to be discovered and each provide their own unique challenge. Very rarely will you feel as if the hole has already been played. This becomes more apparent with the power-ups available in multiplayer. Even if you have played the holes a few times before, with three other players competing for the victory it simply won’t be the same as last time. The highlights include things such as a glue power-up that, when activated (via the press of the B button), leaves a trail of glue behind your ball. Great for when the ball may have just missed the hole and thus the glue is used to block it for another player. If said opponent does hit the glue, their ball will stop. Infuriating for the opponent who may have been going for a hole in one; bloody hilarious if you set that trap. The fireball power-up is even more hilarious/annoying. If the opponent’s ball hits the flames, they have to replay their ball and gain no progress at all, at the expense of a shot. The game is genuinely fun in multiplayer, if there are three others to play with online. It’s not always easy because it seems not too many people play the game online a lot which is a shame from that perspective.
If the multiplayer experience becomes tiring, then there is the single player tournaments to be excited about. The excitement stops at the thought process though, because the game lets itself down in the single player. Players play on their own, so the power-ups such as the glue and fireball ones are gone, and the game only leaves a couple of others that don’t add very much excitement. All 18 holes have to be played through, firstly on the Travellers Course, since the Explorers Course is locked at the start. However, the course has to played through twice, since tournaments consist of two day’s play, which is a very lonely experience. There is also no opportunity to see the AI in action; their scores simply show up on the scoreboard that appears at the end of every hole. Some of the holes become even more frustrating than they were in the multiplayer. Since there is no-one to laugh with, the game gets increasingly annoying with some of the poorer designed holes in the game. One particularly frustrating hole sees the hole start on one planet, requiring a powerful shot onto another planet to reach the hole. Almost full power is required, however sometimes, due to the angle of the opposite planet, the ball will bounce off and go Out of Bounds. This can go on for a good three shots before eventually sticking, all the while nothing has changed. Certainly not fun when on a good round.
There is also little to play for. Once both courses are unlocked, that is it. There is nothing to unlock, nothing to gain from finishing the courses (or even winning the tournament) and nothing to gain by playing on your own again, other than the Achievements. There are little medal tokens to pick up along the way, but they serve no purpose other than to gain another Achievement. The fact that there are only two courses available is somewhat of a let down, because unless online play comes into it, there is nothing to come back for except the possibility of creating your very own courses to challenge yourself.
The Map Editor is actually very good considering it is an Arcade game with limited space. It’s not possible to create some of the more complex holes seen through the single or multiplayer game, but nonetheless there is fun to be had trying out all the different options. Space is limited which to get creative in, but the amount of options for curves, straights, ramps and so on is excellent, meaning the game gives a great opportunity for the more creative players to really explore the possibilities of the Editor.There is even an Achievement for creating and saving a map, which is reason enough to check it out.
If the Map Editor becomes boring, then there is nothing left to try. The game has a hollow single player experience that really won’t be found enjoyable by very many. Playing on your own isn’t always a bad thing, but in a game like Minigolf it almost needs the extra players to keep some emotion in it. The game itself looks OK, nothing special and nothing flashy, and there is at least no lag in the multiplayer part of the game. In fact the mutliplayer is perhaps the highlight of the game and something that doesn’t get boring too quickly. With the use of different power-ups mixing the gameplay with some tactics, there’s a lot of fun to be had.It’s just a shame that there are only two courses in the game, which proves a problem the more time that is spent with it. The Map Editor goes some way in improving this situation, however the created courses can’t be taken online, so no-one really benefits from these, rendering the Editor pretty much redundant. It would have been nice to have seen more courses rather than an Editor, but as it is the game lacks in key areas where it should excel, and chances are the experience from the game will prove more stressful than relaxing, and considerably less enjoyable than the real thing.
In the end, the game doesn’t do as much as it should. There needs to be more single player for the game, because Tournament just isn’t enough. If you have no Live and no friends, the single player will tire so quickly. Throw in some multiplayer to liven things up a bit works for a time, but again it will become boring after playing the same holes for the fifteenth time. The Map Editor does little to inspire more play time, which results in the feeling that money has not been well invested here, and as such the game will rot away on many people’s Hard Drive. It’s a shame because the Arcade could have done with a decent golf game, but this certainly isn’t even a candidate. It’s not relaxing, it’s not enjoyable, but it is disappointingly poor.
Final Score: 5 out of 10 - Below Average (How do we rate games?)